A powerful earthquake shook the Aegean Sea on Friday, hitting coastal cities in western Turkey and nearby Greek islands and leaving at least 19 people dead.
The earthquake flattened several buildings in Izmir, the city’s mayor said, and triggered a groundswell that flooded coastal areas. “We stand with our citizens, who were affected by the earthquake, with all our state’s capabilities,” Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.
At least 17 people died in Turkey, including one victim who drowned in flooding, according to Turkish authorities. More than 700 people were wounded. As darkness enveloped the region, rescue operations were underway to search for survivors in 17 collapsed buildings, officials said.
Turkey measured the earthquake at magnitude 6.6, while the U.S. Geological Survey said it was magnitude 7.0, putting the epicenter between the Greek islands of Samos and Chios.
Although tensions have been high between Turkey and Greece in recent months, mainly because of a dispute over maritime boundaries, Greek Prime Minister said he had called Mr. Erdogan to offer his condolences.
“Whatever our differences, these are times when our people need to stand together,” said the Greek leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
“That two neighbors show solidarity in difficult times is more valuable than many things in life,” Mr. Erdogan said.
In the Turkish village of Kusadasi, hours after the tremor jolted his house a few minutes before 3 p.m. local time, resident Huseyin Akgun was still shaken.
“I’ve experienced many earthquakes before,” the 67-year-old restaurant chef said by telephone. “But I had never feared for my life like this. It lasted forever, I couldn’t move. I thought the house was going to collapse on me.”
Mr. Akgun was worried because village residents had been instructed to stay outside as a precaution against possible aftershocks, but he needed to take care of his disabled mother. “I can’t just put her in the street,” he said.
In the village of Seferihisar, Mayor Ismail Yetiskin was in angst over the fate of several fishermen, who were at sea when the earthquake struck.
“We can’t reach them,” he told Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet. “I fear for the worst because what we experienced was a tsunami.”
In Greece, authorities said the bodies of two teenagers were pulled from the rubble of a collapsed wall on the island of Samos. Greek media said roads were badly damaged on the island and showed photos of a church almost completely destroyed in the Samos town of Karlovasi.
Turkey and Greece are in an area of intense seismic activity because of criss-crossing tectonic forces, with the Anatolian plate drifting westward, relative to Eurasia, and the Aegean plate moving southwest, colliding with the northbound African plate.
Friday’s earthquake was one of the strongest in Turkey since 2011, when one hit the city of Van, near the border with Iran, killing more than 600 people. In 1999, an earthquake near Istanbul left 17,000 dead.
Write to David Gauthier-Villars at David.Gauthier-Villars@wsj.com
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